Monday, March 4, 2013

Chow Time: Clearman's North Woods Inn Covina

Would you believe that we've been experiencing a bit of a heat wave for the past week?

I have probably mentioned in passing that the weather we enjoy in Southern California is blessedly temperate.  In fact, some days leave it difficult to distinguish the difference between winter and summer.  To really get an understanding of the dramatic changes in season that others experience, we have two options - one, we book a flight to a remote destination and two, we resort to make believe.  Sadly, this practice drastically alters our perception.  When we do travel and come face to face with snow-capped mountains, falling snow, and icicle-lined roof tops, our only point of reference is Disneyland or Hollywood movies; we're so conditioned to making believe that we can't quite comprehend the reality.  One place where we get the opportunity to play make believe is at a small chain of restaurants called Clearman's North Woods Inn.  In our weekend meanderings, we found our way to the location in Covina, CA.

The wacky wagon is in the shop so Mr. Tiny
had to arrive the old-fashioned way.

North Woods Inn is an enormous, themed restaurant that tries to capture the wild atmosphere of a rustic, Yukon Territory inn catering to lumberjacks, fur trappers, and miners.  Isolated in a subarctic climate, there were a few necessities that these great frontiersmen of the north would need.

Food, check.

The menu at NWI is not particularly vegetarian-friendly, aside
 from their duo of salads and famous cheese toast. 

Drink, check.

Heat, check.

Quickly checking off the items on the list, North Woods Inn establishes the fact that sometimes frontiersmen need a little bit more than just the basic necessities.  That's where the wacky tacky checklist comes in; a swift scan of the sprawling interior shows that patrons are sustained by more than food.

Taxidermy, check.

This photo is not upside down, the bear skin rug is mounted on the ceiling.
Swingin' fire ring, check.
Ornate, Victorian-style lighting, check.

And check.
I've always been told that I had a perfect face for radio;
NWI makes me think I have a great face for near total darkness!

Tasteful nudes, check.

Aaaaaaannnd, check.
What's a lumberjack to do?  The north was a bitterly lonely place.

All of this photography left us even hungrier than when we came in.  Which was a good thing because at North Woods Inn, one better be as hungry as a...

The portions are generous and the salad and cheese bread are endless!

Mr. Tiny lacks patience and has a hard time sitting still.
Here he is performing his famous, floating-knife trick for the
surrounding tables as he waits for his dinner.

Mary took video of my act but it included the floating-knife theme
song, as sung by Mr. Tiny, as well as some spoilers on how the illusion
 is performed.  Pay no attention to the fork behind the curtain!!! 

Finally the food arrived.
Since the new year, I had stuck, very strictly, to a gluten-free lifestyle.
After two months of only mild suffering, and not achieving the desired results,
I gave up and ordered a sandwich on REAL BREAD!
Mary treated herself to a chocolate sundae!

North Woods Inn is not one of our usual haunts; we save it for adventure days and special occasions.  Upon reviewing the doggy bag, however, we realized that we are quickly becoming regulars; we have been to four of the five Clearman's outlets (you might recall our visit to Clearman's Steak 'n Stein Inn - a wacky tacky favorite). 
Clearman's Restaurants
So, if you are a Southern California native looking for a quick trip to the "Great, White North" or a homesick visitor from a colder clime, be sure to check out Clearman's North Woods Inn - snowshoes NOT required. 

Clearman's North Woods Inn
540 N Azusa Ave
Covina, CA
(626)331-7444 (visit the website for other locations)


Mr. Tiny


  1. One of my absolute favorite destinations! I yearn for that cheese bread late at night...

    1. Hahaha!!! I'm still lactose intolerant and felt guilty enough eating the rye bread, but boy was that cheesy bread tempting!!!

  2. Crazy places that you can only find in the USA.... Love it!

    1. It takes crazy to make crazy; they California the land of fruits and nuts!!! Hahahahaha!!!

  3. Wow, I wish I had your weather problem, they are shutting all the schools down today, due to and impending snow storm.

    1. I know, we're spoiled. On the other hand, I never got a snow day in my entire life!!!

  4. Oh, I wish I lived out there! The nudes! The fire pit! The upside down on the ceiling bear (which will obviously haunt my dreams tonight)! I just love the heart and the whimsy that went into putting this crazy joint together.

    And dagnabbit, I want to see this knife trick!

    1. That upside bear is scary; if you're not paying attention and glance upwards, you think you're under attack! When you guys come to CA, I promise to perform the unbelievable, floating-knife trick!

  5. Looks wonderful! I totally understand what you mean about the Weather... Hello North Texas, where December 1 of 2012 it was 82 degrees (I painted the exterior of my house) and the next day the temp was 30.Sandwich looks to die for, sign me up!

    On a side note, did your "snail mail surprise" ever make it to you?

    1. It is so funny, we still sing all the traditional songs at Christmastime about snow, and cold, and winter weather. Meanwhile, it's 75 degrees outside. No, I never did get the mail..I didn't want to be too presumptuous by asking, "Hey, where's my mail?" I hope it wasn't time sensitive or perishable!

  6. I used to love going to The Boat when it was still actually a boat. I've never been to the other Clearman's restaurants, but have been meaning to give them a try.

    1. We never made it to The Boat when it was The Boat...sad. The new Clearman's Galley is pretty disappointing - too shiny and new (boring). When you get a chance, go to North Woods Inn or, even better, to Steak 'n Stein Inn!!!

  7. I've always wondered about that place! We drive by their location in La Mirada on our way to Disneyland and it always makes me want to stop and look inside. It's even better than I could have imagined! I'm definitely going to make a side trip next time we go by.

    1. Yes indeedy!!! Next time don't just drive by, at least stop and have a drink to get in the mood for Frontierland!!

  8. No vegetarian stuff would be logical; for real, it is literally IMPOSSIBLE to be a vegetarian and live in a cold climate! The only reason it is possible in our society is because of universal central heating and greenhouses! Otherwise one would never make it through a winter; you simply wouldn't be able to keep enough calories on board to stay warm and healthy, not to mention, you'd quickly RUN OUT OF FOOD. Take note: the ONLY heavily vegetarian cultures on earth are all located in WARM climates!

    I once visited the Los Angeles area in December;;;it was my first visit to a warm climate over the winter, and it was completely WEIRD to be walking around in shirt sleeves and seeing CHRISTMAS decorations up all over...AND the fact that it got dark around 5 in the afternoon! I remember being BAFFLED by this for a few moments and had to remind myself that it was in fact "winter"! You could tell right away that we were Canadian; we were the only ones walking around in T-shirts during a 72-degree "cold snap"; everybody else had on sweaters and was complaining how 'cold" it was!

    1. I guess my climate explains why at least half of everyone I know is vegetarian. We are a crazy bunch down here; when I was in Portland, Oregon, in January of last year, I realized that I had never been so cold in my entire life - NEVER, EVER. I was bundled in layer after layer of heavy winter clothing. Meanwhile, locals were in shorts!!!

  9. When I was there, I found the hot dog to be rather expensive-- but the chili dog was the same price! Never saw that anywhere else.
    And there was Scott Joplin on the sound system the entire time, which I liked.

    1. We have a neighborhood pizza joint where an "Individual" antipasto salad is the same price as a antipasto "For One" (which is actually enough for two)??? I'll speak to NWI management re: naked hot dog vs. chili dog price structure. I do find the grub at NWI to be a little pricey for what you get, but I'm willing to pay extra for taxidermy and Joplin!